Chicago Cubs Agree to Minor League Deal with Lefty Phil Coke

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Chicago Cubs Agree to Minor League Deal with Lefty Phil Coke

Chicago Cubs

chicago cubs logo featureAmong the relievers out there who’ve lasted a bit longer in free agency than some expected, Phil Coke’s name was probably near the top. The 32-year-old lefty had some fantastic years as a full-inning reliever for the Tigers, but he had trouble getting a big league deal this offseason.

Enter the Cubs, according to Ken Rosenthal, who’ve landed Coke on a minor league deal. Presumably he’ll come to camp and compete to win the very open lefty job in the Cubs’ bullpen. My guess is he’s getting a split deal, where, if he does make the big league team, he’ll get more than the Major League minimum. Still, it’s a very low risk move for the Cubs. I dig it.

Coke posted a 3.88 ERA, 3.98 FIP, and 3.79 xFIP last year for the Tigers over 58 innings, but he’s seen his strikeout rate fall substantially over the past few years. His velocity has remained strong, though.

Against lefties, Coke was pretty solid last year, with a 3.06 FIP and 3.10 xFIP. The 22.8% K rate and 7.0% walk rate were plenty solid enough to make you think he could still be a very good LOOGY (but strictly a LOOGY). His career splits tell mostly the same story.

All in all – and this is just on a very quick look – Coke seems like a guy who’s going to have a very good shot at winning the lefty job in the Cubs’ pen. It’s a very, very crowded competition, with all of Zac Rosscup, Joe Ortiz, Drake Britton, Eric Jokisch, Felix Doubront, Francisley Bueno, and Hunter Cervenka (and maybe Tsuyoshi Wada and Travis Wood) figuring into the mix. The high volume of quality righties, and the crowded back-end of the rotation really complicate things, as well.

Still, based on some tweets from Rosenthal, you’ve got to think Coke believes he’s could be the guy:

If Coke opted for this deal with the Cubs over a guaranteed big league deal with another team, it’s a good bet that (1) his deal has a solid big league split rate, and (2) he was told he had a really good chance of making the team.

From the Cubs’ perspective, they’ve now got another solid, veteran in the mix for a bullpen job, and they’ve improved their depth. The competition could bring out the best in these guys, and having too many quality options is not a serious Spring problem.

UPDATE: I should add that I’d been waiting for the Pedro Feliciano deal to be finalized – another veteran lefty on a minor league deal – but it looks like that never happened. Wonder if that factored into the decision to pursue Coke.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.